According to a new study, paramedics and A&E doctors often miss the signs of sepsis, and two of the four screening tools used to identify the condition are ineffective. Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is responsible for approximately 48,000 deaths each year in the UK. Due to its difficulty to detect, many cases go undiagnosed, resulting in severe damage or death.
Sepsis occurs when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive in response to an infection and begins attacking vital tissues and organs. If left untreated, sepsis can lead to shock, organ failure, and death. The four screening tools used worldwide to identify sepsis are NEWS2, qSOFA, MEWS, and SIRS.
Researchers from Germany analyzed the records of 221,429 patients who received emergency care outside of hospitals in 2016. They found significant flaws in two of the screening tools. NEWS2 was the only tool with a reasonably accurate prediction rate for sepsis, correctly identifying 72.2% of sepsis cases and 81.4% of non-septic cases.
The study revealed that paramedics rarely documented a suspicion of sepsis, accounting for only 0.1% of cases. On the other hand, health workers were more likely to correctly identify the signs of a heart attack or stroke, leading to a higher chance of survival for those patients. The study showed that 31.4% of sepsis patients died within 30 days, compared to 13.4% of heart attack patients and 11.8% of stroke sufferers.
NHS England has already implemented NEWS2 as the preferred screening tool for sepsis detection. However, the study highlights the need for early assessment by trained clinicians and routine use of early warning scores, such as NEWS2, to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis.
The findings of this study, although observational and not peer-reviewed, will be presented at the European Emergency Medicine Congress. The study underscores the ongoing difficulty in diagnosing sepsis in its early stages and emphasizes the importance of accurate and timely detection to prevent devastating consequences.
Source: The Guardian